Board of Health proposes adding two county members

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:06 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In an effort to better represent the residents of Boone County, the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health proposed an increase in board positions and more lenient residency requirements to the Columbia City Council.

The board comprises nine members: two physicians, one veterinarian, one nurse, one dentist, two lay people and two county appointees.

In a report submitted to the council Monday night, the board proposed subtracting one physician seat and adding a health care worker. In addition, it proposed adding two more county appointees, increasing the membership from nine to 11.

Any changes to the board must be approved by the City Council at a later meeting.

According to Stephanie Browning, the city and county health director, Boone County pays about 35 percent of the local tax dollars to the Health Department. However, the county is only represented by 22 percent of the board, or two out of nine members.

If the council were to approve the additional two county positions, then 36 percent of the board would represent the county. According to a memorandum from Tom Rose, chairman of the board of health, this would “better reflect the ratio of Columbia city residents to Boone County residents living outside Columbia.”

Browning also said that increasing the number of board members would give more people the opportunity to serve on the board and be involved in government. The addition of a health care worker would create a new perspective on health issues.

“Adding never hurts,” Browning said. “It allows for better discussion and more people to weigh in.”

The board also proposed revising the residency requirements for the professional positions. The board currently has a vacant dentist position. Rose will leave the board in August, creating a vacant veterinarian position. The qualifications for such positions require that the candidates, who would be appointed by the council, be citizens of Columbia and live within the city limits.

However, the professional and residential requirements often make the positions hard to fill. Therefore, the board proposed that these positions not be limited by the city limit requirement. In other words, any veterinarian or dentist who lives in Boone County could be a candidate.

“Once they’re on, the board works pretty uniformly, and city or county residence doesn’t matter a lot,” Browning said.

She also said that this proposal would ensure that the best people for the jobs are chosen, regardless of whether they live inside or outside Columbia.

Ken Pearson, presiding commissioner of Boone County and a county appointee on the Board of Health, approves the proposals. He said that, rather than trying to find someone who meets such specific requirements, opening the positions to qualified Boone County residents would facilitate filling the positions.

“It might make it a little bit easier to allow for more people to participate,” Pearson said. “I think by increasing numbers it will provide opportunity for more people on the board and more view points.”

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